TweetFollow Us on Twitter

Kool Tools

Volume Number: 22 (2006)
Issue Number: 7
Column Tag: Reviews

Kool Tools

Solar Star Attic Fans

By MacTech Review Staff

Saving Energy on Cooling

Here in Southern California (where MacTech's main offices are), Edison has just had their 3rd rate increase of the year, and we're at about 40 cents per kilowatt hour. Most MacTech readers like knowing about gadgets for the home, so we thought we'd bring you a bit of information on a more practical product.

If you have an attic, you probably know that attics get hot, up to 120-150 degrees in the height of summer. A hot attic conducts heat into the rest of your home or office, or at the very least prevents it from going out. Even during the winter, proper ventilation helps prevent condensation from forming inside the attic. That can cause a variety of problems including significant heat loss from the home if the attic insulation gets wet.

In looking at the solutions, we took a look at Solatube's Solar Star attic fans specifically because they were solar powered, and therefore would be an easier install, and a more transparent pay back.

Solatube's Solar Star Attic Fan



What's different about this product other than solar power? The Solar Star has no thermostat or switches, and runs whenever sunlight strikes the solar panel. There are therefore, no electrical hookups, no operational costs, and a quicker installation process. Also, the 5-year warranty Solar Star Solar panel is high-impact resistant, providing protection from hail, wind, and damage from foreign objects.

Solar Star offers two versions, the gable vent attic fan and the roof mount attic fan. We took a look at both. They are very similar in the way they work, and what they do, but clearly, the roof mounted unit works better simply because the laws of physics (heat rising) work with it. The flip side is that the gable fan is an even easier install.

The fan units come fully assembled, are leak proof, and provide up to 1,200 square feet of circulation coverage. The gable fan comes with 15 feet of cable for you to use between the fan and the solar panel.

The fans can move up to 850 cubic feet per minute (depending on sunlight conditions). Obviously, these systems run best when the solar panel is under direct sunlight (e.g., south facing roof). Since there are no batteries on the fans, they do not run at night. When there is shade and provided the sky is bright, the fans run, but at a slower speed. When there is shading for a longer portion of the day, an add-on solar panel can be installed for better performance.

Installation

Installation really depends on your type of roof. If you have a composite roof, it's no big deal. But, if you have a tile or concrete roof, you should really get an experienced roofer to do the job. In our case, we went with one of Solatube's recommended installers, Competitive Roofing of Camarillo.



In the case of a composite roof install, it's about as easy as cutting the hole and fitting the unit in. Make sure that you have the right type of flashing to install your unit (see the Solatube web site for more on this), and in the more difficult installations, your roofer may want to fashion something that matches your roof.

Results

What good would a MacTech article be without some hard core testing and results. A solar powered attic fan is a neat concept, but does it work? In short ... absolutely. Astoundingly well in fact.

First, many attic fans are loud - you can many times here them inside the house. The Solar Star products are very quiet, and you cannot hear them inside. Even in the attic, they are quieter than the central air unit's fan.

Second, since the fan starts the moment the sun comes up, the attic stays ventilated all day, not just when it's hot enough to kick the thermostat on.

It's all about the temperature differences, right? Well, yes and no. On average in our monitoring, the attic was 7 degrees cooler at a variety of times of the day. If you are thinking in terms of averages, 7-10 degrees is a pretty good number. On the hottest of days, we saw a difference of as much as 12 degrees in the attic. Pretty impressive when you consider how quiet this 850 cfm fan is.

But what was really impressive is how much faster the attic cooled down at night. Prior to the attic fan, it could be 110 degrees in the attic long after midnight. With the Solar Star installed, we saw temperature drops of 1 degree every 10 minutes. As a result, after dinner, we would typically see comfortable attic temperatures.

Why is this important? If you are in a typical two story house, as our example was, the upstairs have bedrooms. Really the only time you care about the bedrooms being cool is at night. The cooling upstairs is working against the hot attic ... the cooler the attic, the easier it is to cool the upstairs. Same goes for a single story house.

The Gable Fan

For the gable fan testing, we went with a completely different use - venting the garage to keep it cooler. Garages tend to get warm not only from outside sources, but from cars with hot engines, water heaters, and more. In our test case, the Solar Star gable fan was able to cool the garage by approximately 10 degrees during the day.

Conclusion

Who cares what your attic temperature is? You only care what your cooling costs are, and how long it takes to cool your living areas. While there were too many variables to give you a definitive savings on electricity, it's clear that the AC had a much easier time cooling after the Solar Star was installed. Bottom line: The Solar Star made it considerably easy to cool the living area, and will easily pay for itself in electricity savings.

Retail prices for Solar Star Attic Fans begin at $399, plus professional installation if required ($125 for simpler installs, more for more difficult installs). See http://www.solatube.com/res_solarstar.php for more information.

KILL A WATT

By MacTech Review Staff

Kill A Watt is a device that measures electricity usage of appliances. Armed with information, you can effectively reduce your power consumption. It is equipped with a large LCD that displays electricity consumption by the Kilowatt-hour, and helps users in tracking their electrical usage by the hour, day, week, month, and even an entire year.

This device can also be used to assess quality of power by monitoring voltage, line frequency, and power factor. Kill A Watt displays power consumption in volts, amps, watts, Hz, and VA also.



Using this device, results can be calculated with 0.2% accuracy. The operating and maximum voltages of Kill A Watt are 115, and 125 VAC respectively. Kill A Watt has maximum current rating of 15 A and maximum power rating of 1875 VA, weighs 5 oz., and its dimensions are 5 1/8 x 1 5/8 x 2 3/8 inches.

What was most interesting to us in using the Kill A Watt is that we were able to determine which computers used the most electricity. For example, we tested an Xserve Dual G5 machine and realized is consuming over $50/mo. in electricity. And, you can see how computers have gotten more advanced -a Mac Mini G4/1.42 GHz costs less than $5/mo to run, while a G4 Cube/450 MHz is closer to $10/mo.

We used this device to determine air conditioning costs for portable air conditioners as well. Very useful, and well worth the cost of the unit.

KILL A WATT retails for $39.95, and is available from a number of online resellers. For more information, visit: http://www.p3international.com/.


MacTech Magazine Editorial Staff

 

Community Search:
MacTech Search:

Software Updates via MacUpdate

Live Home 3D Pro 3.2.2 - $69.99
Live Home 3D Pro, a successor of Live Interior 3D, is the powerful yet intuitive home design software that lets you build the house of your dreams right on your Mac. It has every feature of Live Home... Read more
FileZilla 3.27.0.1 - Fast and reliable F...
FileZilla (ported from Windows) is a fast and reliable FTP client and server with lots of useful features and an intuitive interface. Version 3.27.0.1: MSW: Add misssing file to .zip binary package... Read more
Spotify 1.0.59.395. - Stream music, crea...
Spotify is a streaming music service that gives you on-demand access to millions of songs. Whether you like driving rock, silky R&B, or grandiose classical music, Spotify's massive catalogue puts... Read more
Sierra Cache Cleaner 11.0.6 - Clear cach...
Sierra Cache Cleaner is an award-winning general purpose tool for macOS X. SCC makes system maintenance simple with an easy point-and-click interface to many macOS X functions. Novice and expert... Read more
DiskCatalogMaker 7.1.2 - Catalog your di...
DiskCatalogMaker is a simple disk management tool which catalogs disks. Simple, light-weight, and fast Finder-like intuitive look and feel Super-fast search algorithm Can compress catalog data for... Read more
Live Home 3D Pro 3.1.2 - $69.99
Live Home 3D Pro, a successor of Live Interior 3D, is the powerful yet intuitive home design software that lets you build the house of your dreams right on your Mac. It has every feature of Live Home... Read more
Deeper 2.2.1 - Enable hidden features in...
Deeper is a personalization utility for macOS which allows you to enable and disable the hidden functions of the Finder, Dock, QuickTime, Safari, iTunes, login window, Spotlight, and many of Apple's... Read more
Pinegrow 3.04 - Mockup and design webpag...
Pinegrow (was Pinegrow Web Designer) is desktop app that lets you mockup and design webpages faster with multi-page editing, CSS and LESS styling, and smart components for Bootstrap, Foundation,... Read more
Deeper 2.2.1 - Enable hidden features in...
Deeper is a personalization utility for macOS which allows you to enable and disable the hidden functions of the Finder, Dock, QuickTime, Safari, iTunes, login window, Spotlight, and many of Apple's... Read more
Spotify 1.0.59.395. - Stream music, crea...
Spotify is a streaming music service that gives you on-demand access to millions of songs. Whether you like driving rock, silky R&B, or grandiose classical music, Spotify's massive catalogue puts... Read more

Latest Forum Discussions

See All

The best deals on the App Store this wee...
There are quite a few truly superb games on sale on the App Store this week. If you haven't played some of these, many of which are true classics, now's the time to jump on the bandwagon. Here are the deals you need to know about. [Read more] | Read more »
Realpolitiks Mobile (Games)
Realpolitiks Mobile 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $5.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: PLEASE NOTE: The game might not work properly on discontinued 1GB of RAM devices (iPhone 5s, iPhone 6, iPhone 6 Plus, iPad... | Read more »
Layton’s Mystery Journey (Games)
Layton’s Mystery Journey 1.0.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $15.99, Version: 1.0.0 (iTunes) Description: THE MUCH-LOVED LAYTON SERIES IS BACK WITH A 10TH ANNIVERSARY INSTALLMENT! Developed by LEVEL-5, LAYTON’S... | Read more »
Full Throttle Remastered (Games)
Full Throttle Remastered 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $4.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: Originally released by LucasArts in 1995, Full Throttle is a classic graphic adventure game from industry legend Tim... | Read more »
Stunning shooter Morphite gets a new tra...
Morphite is officially landing on iOS in September. The game looks like the space shooter we've been needing on mobile, and we're going to see if it fits the bill quite shortly. The game's a collaborative effort between Blowfish Studios, We're Five... | Read more »
Layton's Mystery Journey arrives to...
As you might recall, Layton's Mystery Journey is headed to iOS and Android -- tomorrow! To celebrate the impending launch, Level-5's released a new trailer, complete with an adorable hamster. [Read more] | Read more »
Sidewords (Games)
Sidewords 1.0 Device: iOS Universal Category: Games Price: $2.99, Version: 1.0 (iTunes) Description: Grab a cup of coffee and relax with Sidewords. Sidewords is part logic puzzle, part word game, all original. No timers. No... | Read more »
Noodlecake Games' 'Leap On!...
Noodlecake Games is always good for some light-hearted arcade fun, and its latest project, Leap On! could carry on that tradition. It's a bit like high stakes tetherball in a way. Your job is to guide a cute little blob around a series of floating... | Read more »
RuneScape goes mobile later this year
Yes, RuneScape still exists. In fact, it's coming to iOS and Android in just a few short months. Jagex, creators of the hit fantasy MMORPG of yesteryear, is releasing RuneScape Mobile and Old School RuneScape for mobile devices, complete with... | Read more »
Crash of Cars wants you to capture the c...
Crash of Cars is going full on medieval in its latest update, introducing castles and all manner of new cars and skins fresh from the Dark Ages. The update introduces a new castle-themed map (complete with catapults) and a gladiator-style battle... | Read more »

Price Scanner via MacPrices.net

Save or Share
FotoJet Designer, is a simple but powerful new graphic design apps available on both Mac and Windows. With FotoJet Designer’s 900+ templates, thousands of resources, and powerful editing tools you... Read more
Logo Maker Shop iOS App Lets Businesses Get C...
A newly released app is designed to help business owners to get creative with their branding by designing their own logos. With more than 1,000 editable templates, Logo Maker Shop 1.0 provides the... Read more
Sale! New 15-inch MacBook Pros for up to $150...
Amazon has the new 2017 15″ MacBook Pros on sale for up to $150 off MSRP including free shipping: – 15″ 2.8GHz MacBook Pro Space Gray: $2249 $150 off MSRP – 15″ 2.89Hz MacBook Pro Space Gray: $2779 $... Read more
DEVONthink To Go 2.1.7 For iOS Brings Usabili...
DEVONtechnologies has updated DEVONthink To Go, the iOS companion to DEVONthink for Mac, with enhancements and bug fixes. Version 2.1.7 adds an option to clear the Global Inbox and makes the grid... Read more
15-inch 2.2GHz Retina MacBook Pro, Apple refu...
Apple has Certified Refurbished 2015 15″ 2.2GHz Retina MacBook Pros available for $1699. That’s $300 off MSRP, and it’s the lowest price available for a 15″ MacBook Pro. An Apple one-year warranty is... Read more
13-inch 2.3GHz Silver MacBook Pro on sale for...
B&H Photo has the new 2017 13″ 2.3GHz/256GB Silver MacBook Pro (MPXU2LL/A) on sale for $1399 including free shipping plus NY & NJ sales tax only. Their price is $100 off MSRP. Read more
Apple Tackles Distracted Driving With iOS 11...
One of the most important new features coming in iOS 11 is Do Not Disturb while driving, intended to help drivers stay more focused on the road. With Do Not Disturb while driving, your iPhone can... Read more
iMazing Mini for Mac: Free Automatic and Priv...
Geneva, Switzerland-based indie developer DigiDNA has released iMazing Mini, their free macOS utility designed to automatically back up iOS devices over any local Wi-Fi network. The app offers users... Read more
Clearance 2016 13-inch MacBook Airs, Apple re...
Apple dropped prices recently on Certified Refurbished 2016 13″ MacBook Airs, with models now available starting at $809. An Apple one-year warranty is included with each MacBook, and shipping is... Read more
9.7-inch 2017 iPads available for $299, save...
B&H Photo has 2017 9.7″ 32GB WiFi iPads on sale for $30 off MSRP for a limited time. Shipping is free, and pay sales tax in NY & NJ only: – 32GB iPad WiFi: $299, $30 off Read more

Jobs Board

*Apple* Retail - Multiple Positions - Apple...
SalesSpecialist - Retail Customer Service and SalesTransform Apple Store visitors into loyal Apple customers. When customers enter the store, you're also the Read more
*Apple* Retail - Multiple Positions - Apple...
SalesSpecialist - Retail Customer Service and SalesTransform Apple Store visitors into loyal Apple customers. When customers enter the store, you're also the Read more
Senior Payments Architect - *Apple* Pay - A...
Changing the world is all in a day's work at Apple . If you love innovation, here's your chance to make a career of it. You'll work hard. But the job comes with more Read more
Frameworks Engineering Manager, *Apple* Wat...
Frameworks Engineering Manager, Apple Watch Job Number: 41632321 Santa Clara Valley, California, United States Posted: Jun. 15, 2017 Weekly Hours: 40.00 Job Summary Read more
Manager, *Apple* Media Products - Apple Inc...
Job Summary The Apple Media Products Discovery, Fraud and Abuse team is responsible for protecting the integrity of Apple services. As a manager of the team, you Read more
All contents are Copyright 1984-2011 by Xplain Corporation. All rights reserved. Theme designed by Icreon.